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File:Motion-cap-001 2450.png
"Motion Capture vill take over ze vorld!"
Andy Serkis, King Kong (2005) gag reel.

Motion Capture is a relatively new procedure that removes the need for traditional animation of characters, at least in 3D. Or so they say; depending on the goal, anywhere from trivial to massive re-animating over top of the mocap data can be required.

Basically, a performer wears a skin-tight nylon suit with reflective little balls on their joints (elbows, feet, knees, head, chest etc). A scanner scans the position of the joints in, and the actor's movements are digitized for use on one or more computer-animated characters.

It has several advantages over traditionally animating something: it is faster, less time-consuming and makes creatures move like people. (Sometimes creepily-so.)

Rotoscoping is the manual, pre-computer version of this process.

Often a domain of the Serkis Folk.

Examples of Motion Capture include:


  • Orangina used Motion Capture in their various, strange CGI commercials. See here for the "making of" vid.

Film - Live-Action

  • One cannot mention Motion Capture without Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film adaptations and King Kong in the 2006 film. Though it was a mix between mocap and computer animation.
  • Everything in Avatar is mocaped, or like James Cameron likes to call it, performance captured, which means full body movement including facial muscles and the eyes without any additional animation.
  • Jurassic Park did this for some of the dinosaur shots after they decided to go with CGI instead of puppets. The puppeteer crew was kept on and essentially did motion capture puppeteering.
    • This was a strange case, as they were once supposed to be stop motion. They decided to ditch that, but made dinosaur armatures connected to servos, which animated the dinosaurs on the computers. This was done to ease the jarringness of transferring to CG for mostly stop motion animators.
  • The martians in John Carter. Interestingly enough, the film was directed by Andrew Stanton (whose old company, Pixar, wasn't very big on the process).

Film - Animated

  • Robert Zemeckis is fond of this: he used it to create Monster House, The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol (2009), and Mars Needs Moms.
  • In Happy Feet, most of the penguins sing, and so have talented singers for voice actors. Mumble, on the other hand, tap dances, so the producers brought in (and credited) famous tap-dancer Savion Glover to do the motion capture just for Mumble.
  • Pixar is notable for not using it, preferring to rely on the hand-keyed frame-by-frame crafting characteristic of stop-motion animation. Their animators do, however, often make hours of reference film of themselves doing actions as diverse as fighting and eating chocolate cake to get the details right. Ratatouille even has a logo in the credits touting "100% pure animation! No motion capture used!", indicating a company bias against the process. Fun factioid: pre-production on Toy Story involved animators strapping their feet to boards to see how the army men might walk.
  • Several Jim Henson Productions that use CGI characters have used a puppet-like armature covered in sensors, to allow the company's puppeteers to animate the character in real-time using their existing skills; Henson puppeteers regularly perform by watching their own actions on a video monitor. Generally, the low-quality real-time render is redone as a better render afterward.
  • The film adaptation of Tintin is also based on these.
  • Bionicle: The Legend Reborn contains a few scenes of this.
  • Motion Capture was used heavily in The Polar Express, to the point of some character movements looking somewhat Uncanny Valley-ish

Video Games - Chronological order

  • More and more common in video games, especially Fighting Games. Incredibly helpful to make 3d martial arts manoeuvres look authentic to have an actual martial artist recording said manoeuvre. Granted, there's some problems if the move's mapped onto someone drastically different from the attacker or defender, but adds a little verisimilitude.
  • Prince of Persia (1989) - credited by the Guiness Book of World Records for first use of motion capture in a video game, albeit via rotoscoping.
  • The Interplay adaption of The Lord of the Rings was motion captured in the cheapest, most primitive way imaginable. For example, Gandalf was 'played' by one of the developers wearing a bathrobe, sombrero, and Santa Claus beard.
  • Madden NFL Football 1994
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Some of Link's stunts in were done with motion capture.
  • Experimented with in the Metal Gear Solid VR Missions add-on (2000), brought into all later games in the series, with Hideo Kojima directing the actors as if it were a movie.
    • Nearly caused problems when, during the development of Metal Gear Solid 2 (2001), Kojima's son (who had been taken into the studio by his father so he could have company) toddled onto the set, picked up a prop sword and started poking the reflective dots on the motion capture actors' suits with it.
    • During development of Metal Gear Solid 4 (2008), the additional time needed to render the cutscenes meant the voice actors had to sync along with camera-recorded motion capture footage instead - weirdly enough, it improved performance. Facial motion capture was also used for the first time, and to great effect.
  • Primal (2003) When it works, it works really well. A couple of times it seems to be wildly overdone, perhaps to draw attention to the fact that it's motion capture.
  • Enter The Matrix (2003) has all actor's movements, combos and speech mo-capped. This resulted in the very smooth movements, unfortunately overshadow by graphics, obsolete even by 2003 standards.
  • Ghost Hunter (2003)
    • They even seem to have captured Michael Gambon's characteristic stoop.
  • Devil May Cry 3 (2003) had Reuben Langdon, Daniel Southworth, and Stephanie Cheeva mocap as Dante, Vergil, and Lady respectively.
    • Devil May Cry 4 (2008) had Reuben reprise as Dante, while Johnny Yong Bosch was Nero's mocap actor.
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (2007) and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
  • World in Conflict (2007) and its expansion Soviet Assault use motion-capture for cutscenes; some raw footage of motion-capture sessions plays over the credits with the final cutscene next to it for comparison.
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008) used motion capture of gymnast Heidi Moneymaker for Lara's acrobatics.
    • Underworld is the first of the Tomb Raider games to use motion capture.
    • Ironically, quite a few players complain about Heidi's ... I mean Lara's incredibly fast movement looking jerky.
  • Heavy Rain (2010): All major character's performances are fully mocap, including the face and the eyes, just like in Avatar.
  • For Grand Theft Auto IV, MMA fighter Bas Rutten was used as the motion actor for Nico's martial arts. Bas was also given a cameo as himself in one of the in-game TV shows.
  • This was used for LA Noire to help achieve detailed emotions on characters faces.
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